Category Archives: The College Years

Okay, Okay…

CONTENT WARNING!!!

**If hearing Christian music from the 80s and 90s causes you pain, do not continue… The following songs are hardcore Christian. Not suitable for all audiences.**

No need to twist my arm, folks. I have a healthy sense of humor about my college days. And judging by the comments on my last post, so do many of you. This is just a few of the approximately 80 songs I converted to mp3 this past week. For those of you who don’t remember or don’t normally read my blog, these songs were recorded by a music group I was part of during my time at Bible College. The group toured the country and performed their “multi-media” (think slide shows, music, and skits) concerts for churches coast to coast. And so here it is, just a smattering of old Impact Brass and Singers’ songs.

This first one is Evolution Redefined. It was recorded on the campus of Ozark Christian College in the Spring of 1995. I’m singing the solo on this one from the perspective of a student who is being “subjected” to a teacher who believes in evolution. The horror! My character suggests that perhaps there is “another possible solution.” Prepare thyself…

This is Higher Ground. We recorded this in 1992, my first year in the group. I included it because it is typical of the brass and vocals that Impact Brass was known for. My favorite part is the “marching band-esque” interlude. I can almost see the flags and poms…

This is He Shall Dry Every Tear. I wasn’t even part of the group when this was recorded in 1981. But, it represents old-school Impact Brass and Singers.

cover_forgiven

Well, that’s probably enough Impact Brass stuff for now. I just thought I should give examples of what I’ve written about numerous times. Proof, if you will.

A Blast from the Past

We live in a very digital world. Or, dig-i-kal, as my grandma would say. Everything is seemingly turning digital. I’m fine with that. I’m so glad we don’t need to haul bulky vinyl records around in order to hear our music. For me, the ease of use and accessibility of music in mp3 format is unbeatable. It gives me access to my entire music library whenever I want it.

I was reading that there is a major rise in the use of vinyl. I think that people just love to go retro. I can almost hear the purists now, “vinyl just sounds so warm…” In fact, CDs are already on the decline, perhaps due in a very small part to the resurgence of vinyl records. And who would have thought? It wasn’t even 10 years ago that people were hauling around dozens of CDs and plopping them into CD players everywhere. However, the new standard is mp3. Everything is becoming iPod accessible and I love it.

But, this is about more than just music. As I said, this is a dig-i-kal world we live in. This includes music, movies, pictures–basically, all our information. I have spent a lot of time making the conversion. I’ve scanned countless photos and converted many CDs.

I have a small stack of old CDs leftover from my college years that I’ve been looking at it for quite some time. Actually, that’s not totally true. They are tucked neatly away in a container in a storage cabinet. But, every time I go into that cabinet I see them. It’s annoying really, I hear them saying, “convert me. converrrrrrrt me.” Ok, already. Geesh. I decided the time had come for me to convert my old Impact Brass and Singers’ CDs.

It’s not that I want to listen to them over and over. I just want them converted for archival purposes. You know, in case I want to listen to them later. Well, I couldn’t help myself. After spending an hour or so converting these gems from my past, I had to listen to some of it. I discovered that the best perspective on your life comes in the form of recordings of you singing in college.

I haven’t listened to this stuff for years, probably close to ten years. My first thought was: wow, this sounds old, like the early 90s. Of course, it was recorded in the early 90s. My second thought was: wow, I have changed…a lot. I look different, I sound different, I think different. In a moment of weakness I decided to play one of my songs for Jeff. I’m not sure that he’s fully recovered just yet. It was like a taking him in a time machine back to 1992.

Poor guy. At least he didn’t leave me. I really did go to Bible College and sing in a group that traveled around performing Christian cover songs and skits, all with a slide show going on in the background. It’s hard to paint a proper picture without actually pulling out the CDs and old videos, which thankfully are not in my possession.

Here’s our group picture. I’m the blond guy in the back wearing the burgundy suspenders, the over-sized glasses, and a sheepish smile…

Stand Strong! (and down.)

that’s for all my fellow survivors.

Christians, Part 2

I never intended for there to be any follow-ups to my Christians post. Really. I realize that I can tend to obsess about things, especially when it comes to things involving Christians. But, this is totally out of my hands. You see, a fellow blogger recently sent me this video. Before I go any further I want you to watch this video…in its entirety. This was posted on Youtube by someone who runs a bizarre Christian blog called The House of Hunt. It’s a very interesting blog. Check it out after you check out this video.
**UPDATE**
The video was removed from Youtube. It was also removed from The Way International’s website. Wow. I guess they really weren’t enjoying all of the new traffic. They really should learn to have a sense of humor about themselves. I mean come on, really? Well, at least I have the memories of that video and the hours of laughter it gave me.

Now, for just a few notes…

1) Evidently, these people are part of The Way International. This is a religious group that is considered to be a cult by most mainstream Christians. No comment.

2) I have watched this video over 10 times and find it funnier each time.

3) I love the fact that they worked the phrase “legal rights” into their song. That takes talent.

4) Not many people can pull off choreographed “freestyle” in a suit, tie, and wireless headset microphone–correction, no one can actually pull that off.

5) I think I’m gonna watch it again.

OK. So, I have a confession to make before I start getting all kinds of comments reminding me of my past. I once was part of a music group that can now be considered equally cheesy and hilarious. Just add a some bad acting and a multi-media slide presentation. I guess this isn’t totally a new confession. I just feel like every now and then I should own up to it, just in case any old video footage ever surfaces. We would travel to churches, located mostly in the Pagan Midwestern states and attempt to convert people that were already going to church. As you can imagine, we were incredibly successful.

From a performance standpoint, I do have to say that this trio was very well rehearsed. Oh, shit, who am I kidding? This was ridiculous. I sure do hope they produce more material for us…

The Final Days of RENT

I originally wrote this post at the end of May. The amazing and legendary Broadway musical RENT was scheduled to close June 1 and, due to good ticket sales, was thrown a life line until this weekend. It’s now time for RENT to close after 5,123 performances on Broadway since it opened on April 29, 1996. That makes it the 7th longest running show in Broadway history.

RENT is closing on Broadway on September 7, 2008. This may not seem that big of a deal to many of you, hardly even “blog-worthy.” But for me it is the end of one of the best musicals to ever perform on Broadway. You see, RENT was my first Broadway show. I saw it in November of 1997 and it’s the reason for my love of musical theater. My friend Cathy and I went and saw it at the Majestic Theater in Dallas, Texas. I was working several weekends a month at a church in Texas. I would drive an hour and a half to Tulsa, Oklahoma, from Joplin, Missouri, and then fly to Dallas for the weekend to work at a church where I was the worship leader. I’m not sure why a church would pay to have a college student come so far, but they did. The escape from Bible college and the sense of being a jet-setter were amazing. The church was hoping I would come there full-time after graduation. In reality, the whole experience not only introduced me to my current employer, but it also gave me the flying bug.

Anyway, my point is that this was a transitional time for me. I was finishing up my six years at Ozark Christian College and dealing with all of the gay issues I’ve previously written about. At this point in my journey, I hadn’t come out of the closet. Going to see RENT was like giving me a peek into a world that I didn’t even know existed. A beautiful world of drag queens and queers (I mean that in a good way), a world where it was not only OK to be gay, but fabulously OK. It was a world in which people broke into song and dance for no apparent reason. This was my world. Stunned and, frankly, a little giddy, I sat on the edge of my seat for most of the performance.

I don’t know if Cathy ever knew that I loved it this much because as soon as we left the Majestic I had to get back into “Christian Music Pastor” mode. But, the seed had been planted. And that’s why this musical has been so important to me. It provided me with something I had been longing for–gay life–in all of it’s vibrant color and spectacular diversity. For several years RENT was the only ingredient in my musical theater diet. It was the appetizer, the main course, and the dessert.

I remember the following months in the Bible college dorm as other music students began to discover this musical. You could hear “Seasons of Love” floating out of their rooms. You could also hear the abrupt change in volume when the phrase “mucho masturbation” was supposed to be shouting from “La Vie Boheme.” Some songs really could never be played–at least through speakers. I suppose there is a very strange irony in a bunch of Bible college students drooling over a musical not just filled with sex, but sex with the same sex. And, don’t forget all of the colorful language and the topic of HIV/AIDS that permeates RENT.

But we couldn’t help ourselves. This was an amazing piece of work. I wanted to be Mark, one of the lead roles. And in some ways, I developed his sort of quirky, bohemian sense of style. All in all, I’ve seen RENT three times on stage. That hardly makes me a “RENT-head,” but I don’t think it diminishes my love for the show. When the movie came out, I paid to see it three times. When I bought the DVD and watched the accompanying Jonthan Larson documentary, I cried so hard that I thought I was going to hyperventilate. My love runs deep. So I’ll always hold a very special place in my heart for this musical that means so much to me. We have history.

goodbye, love, goodbye…

RENT links:

Original New York Times review of the show

A Photographer’s journal of RENT from the New York Times

RENT’s website siteforrent.com

Wikipedia’s RENT page

The original cast recording on Amazon.com

A Sentimental Day

My, My how times have changed over the last decade. I’ve been feeling extremely sentimental lately. It’s been 10 years since my mother passed, 10 years since I graduated from college, 10 years since I left the midwest, 10 years since my life took the dramatic turn that has led me to where I am today.

Frankly, in retrospect, I find it amazing that I am where I am. A secular gay man working in the airline industry and living in San Francisco. I still suffer from culture shock on occasion. Ten years ago I was just leaving the midwest after 6 years of Bible College. I was just starting an exciting job with an up-and-coming mega-church in Arizona. The job didn’t last long, and the next thing I knew I was working for my first airline. Then I started coming to terms with a life outside the Church. I realize that is a horrible summary of an extremely turbulent 1998. But, I don’t think I’m ready to broadcast all of that on my blog…nothing personal. Really, it’s me, not you.

The point of this post is not to elaborate on my journey from point A to point B. I’m just amazed at my starting point. I think that I’m mostly amazed that people change. More specifically, I changed. I mean, shit, I voted for Bob Dole in 1996. Ouch! Wow, that hurt to type those words. I. Voted. For. Bob. Dole. The only thing I have say in my defense is that I did not vote George W. Bush in 2000 or 2004. I remember sitting in my dormitory lobby gathered around the TV and feeling the immense dread of another 4 years with Bill Clinton. And now, I think that Bill Clinton was a great president! And that’s actually my point…I started thinking for myself.

I totally get why so many of my Bible College friends have a hard time understanding me these days. I’m not the same Tyler that they knew in college. There are parts of me that haven’t changed. I still love music, even some gospel music. I’m still just a little odd, a little geeky.

To be fair, it also freaks Jeff out a little bit to envision the Tyler from 1998. When I’m feeling a little bit ornery, I’ll whip into a rousing rendition of How Great Thou Art or Shout to the Lord. My friend Jaclyn likes to hear one my special prayers. You know the type that involves lots of thee’s and thou’s, blessing’s and tribulation’s. Oh yeah, I can preach, too. I reserve that for when I’m feeling just downright mean. And every time I pull from my personal experience in Bible College, I also have a moment of gratitude. I’m happy to be where I am now.

For old time’s sake, here’s a picture of me from my Bible-thumpin’ days. This was taken at my senior piano recital. I had no idea that my whole world was about to change…

The Real Wedding Singer

Jeff and I were watching TV this weekend and happened to surf past The Wedding Singer, starring Adam Sandler (Robbie Hart) and Drew Barrymore (Julia Sullivan). Oh, that takes me back. You remember the movie, right? You know…Adam Sandler plays a washed up wedding singer whose fiancé walks out on him at the altar. Drew Barrymore plays a catering server who ends up falling for Adam’s character, and dumps her fiancé (whose last name is Gulia, which would have made her name Julia Gulia).

Needless to say, unless you like hearing Adam Sandler doing 80’s covers, this movie itself is washed up. So, we kept on surfing. But, of course, that movie always reminds me of my college days. Not because it was set in the 80’s, but because I was a real wedding singer back in the 90s.

I never did it for a living, though. I was kind of like the girl who is always the bridesmaid and never the bride. I have sang in more weddings than I care to remember. And, I have to admit it straight away…I hate weddings! Here’s why…

I think they are ridiculous. Not in a “oh, bless her heart…can you believe she wants that in her wedding…” type of way, but in a “these people ain’t right” type of way. Seriously, I know what I’m talking about here–these people ain’t right. One of the bonuses of being the wedding singer/musician (sometimes I just had to play the piano) was that I got an up close view of how horrible everything really was, but I didn’t have to actually stand up with the wedding party and pretend to like it. You have to know what I am talking about here–think bridesmaid dresses, gaudy flowers, etc. etc. I got to sit over in the corner and crack jokes or just shake my head in disbelief.

The number one reason that I hate weddings is clear. I can’t deal with the entitlement that goes along with it. It’s this attitude that says, “This is my day! I deserve to get whatever I want!” Ugh. I totally grossed myself out just typing it. I’ve actually seen brides throw temper-tantrums.

The second reason is that because they are entitled, they will put anything that they want in their wedding. And this is where I was always personally affected. If I ever sing at another wedding, there are several things that I swear on my severely sprained ankle that I won’t sing…The Wedding Song (There is Love). No way. No more Peter, Paul and Mary songs! Also, no more Everything I Do (I Do It for You). And, definitely, positively no more Chicago songs. You know…You’re the Inspiration. I just have to put my foot down. Ouch!

Most of the people’s weddings that I sang in were friends, so, I have probably just offended them all. Oh well, they need to know these things for their second or third weddings. Which brings me to the third reason I hate weddings. Freebies. Now, keep in mind, most of these weddings happened prior to my career as a flight attendant. I had to pay to fly everywhere. And, people just love to have their special day at locations that could not be possibly more inconvenient. I actually “opted” out of going to my sister’s and my brother’s weddings because they were too far removed–i.e. waaaaay too expensive to fly to.

But, as for my “friends,” I cannot tell you all of the outrageous things that were expected of me pro bono. I actually had one “friend” in college get mad at me because I told him I couldn’t afford to pay the $600 for the airfare to come and sing at his wedding (for free). The most common thing that people would ask me to do for free is what I call “filler.” Basically it went like this: they would discover at the last minute that their poorly planned wedding had gaps in it. Oh yeah, why don’t we just have the pianist play something there. “Oh, pianist, can you just play a little something while we wait for the bride to get ready?” That’s why I always came to weddings with loads of piano books. Better to be prepared.

Weddings bring out people’s true character. In mothers who may normally appear to be sweet and harmless you see the inner control freak. In fathers who may normally appear to be dominant and controlling you see that they really just don’t give a shit. And, in brides who may normally appear to be totally in love with the groom, you see that they are much more in love with the wedding than with him.

Wow, I just let out some seriously pent-up feelings about this subject. I feel much better now.

I can’t end a blog post about weddings without at least telling my funniest wedding experience. First, I fully support gay marriage. I fully believe that we should have the right to marry whomever and however we want. That doesn’t mean that I actually want to have a wedding ceremony. Especially, after I went to my first gay wedding.

It was several years ago. The grooms decided to incorporate a plethora of cultural practices into their ceremony, in order to honor the diversity of their beliefs, I guess. So, it started with both of the grooms being carried in by the wedding party while the entire congregation repeatedly sang a song entitled He Carried Me. Subtle, I know. At another point the grooms sprinkled rose petals over the entire congregation. This was followed by one of the grooms playing You Are My Sunshine on his violin. And, the highlight was when the grooms got dressed up as pink bunny rabbits for the congregation. I shit you not.

Some people just ain’t right.

Boys Will Be Boys

In retrospect, living in an all-male dormitory while I was in Bible College was not altogether a bad experience. In fact, as most of you are aware, when you get a group of guys together alone, odd behavior usually erupts. My college days were no different. I would even go a step further…homoerotic behavior usually erupts.

Take your typical male locker room. Although many will deny it, you have to agree that it is a little “gay” to snap another naked man with a towel. I mean…come on. That is just one example of a multitude of flirtatious, gay locker room activities. Wrestling naked. Pinching one another in the privates. Comparing/commenting on penis sizes. I could go on…maybe I will. If you are shocked or appalled, now may be a good time to stop reading, if you can.

I realize that this topic may be a little uncomfortable for some guys. And my theory is that the more a person protests, the more closeted they are. Those that have no problem talking about these activities usually have nothing to hide. They are either totally out and gay, or are straight with no hidden issues. The latter have no problem talking about it because they have nothing to hide. It is what it is…guys messing around. I always get this feeling that those who balk at this subject are hiding something…

I remember several instances in the dorm involving a group guys and entire family-sized containers of lotion. What ensued was a gay man’s dream. A little man on man lotion wrestling. Participants wearing only a greasy pair of underwear. I mean…come on. There also was a group of guys that called themselves the sock posse. They would run throughout the dorm wearing only one strategically placed sock. (wink wink) For some reason, some guys love to show what they have. My first roommate in college spent more time naked than clothed. He slept naked; walked all the way down the hall to the community shower naked; studied naked. I have my theories about what this was about, but, I’ll just save that for myself. 😉

My point is this, I don’t think that all this behavior is actually that strange. I think it is playful and natural to be curious. We spend so much of our lives repressing certain thoughts and actions that we start to think they are wrong. I also really don’t think that checking out another guy’s penis makes a person totally gay. In reality, I don’t think sexuality is that black and white. I really appreciate the Kinsey Scale of Sexuality. It places everyone on a spectrum. One end being totally gay, the other totally straight. Most people fit somewhere in the middle.

So once again, I should thank Ozark Christian College for giving a closeted gay boy a little male on male entertain to help him through an otherwise rough time in his life.